God's End Game - Part 42
Series: God's End Game
December 08, 2019
God’s End Game - Part 42
I had a great vacation. It was uneventful. That’s the best kind for me. Before I left we had picked back up in our God’s End Game series, the series that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friend.
In the God’s End Game series, we’re using the Bible to figure out what God is up to with us and the world, where all this is going, and how our sovereign creator will put all things back to rights.
We find ourselves winding things down with the final play of God’s End Game: the second coming of Jesus Christ when, “at the end of time… he will come to judge the world and usher in the fullness of his kingdom.”
We are now engaging the hard part of that truth: “he will come to judge the world.” AKA THE FINAL JUDGMENT. It is both final (as final as anything could possibly be) and a judgment, the most severe one could imagine. It’s a judgment rendered by Jesus himself.
The doctrine of the final judgment is defined this way:
This doctrine affirms that when Christ, the merciful and righteous king of the earth, returns, all human beings will be held accountable for their lives, resulting in eternal condemnation or eternal blessedness.
If that excites you, check your heart. This should cut us to the bone. And if we’re really honest, it makes us wonder how a just God can be reconciled with a God who is also love, how a loving God can send people to hell, how a God angry at and wrathful toward sin can be good at the same time.
remember what CS Lewis said…
“If our [faith] is something objective (something true in and of itself) then we must never avert our eyes from those elements in it which seem puzzling or repellant; for it [is] precisely in the puzzling and repellant [where we discover] what we do not yet know and desperately need to know.”
Hell is puzzling and repellant if we truly grasp its implications. And it’s one of the biggest reasons, if you remember, modern culture tries to redefine Christianity or even reject it altogether. But last time we spent quite a bit of time learning how there’s really no contradiction here. “Anger is how goodness responds to evil.”
You can go back and listen to that on our podcast page.
Let’s cautiously and humbly plow forward in this puzzling and repellant part of God’s End Game, the final judgment, as highlighted in the Book of Revelation. If we’ll stick to it, we’ll discover things about God we need to know.
Return with me once again to a key text in Revelation which describes the return of the king at the end of the age…
Revelation 19:11–16 (ESV) — 11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
Jesus has has come back as promised, riding on a white horse ready to wage war against the forces of darkness. He of course wins and sets down on his throne as ruler of all things, establishing his kingdom on earth as it is heaven. But there’s more…
Revelation 20:1–6 (ESV) — 1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. 4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
Most folks get tangled up trying to interpret how the thousand years mentioned here — AKA the Millennial reign — fits into a neat little timeline. There are four schools of thought or so on this ranging from a literal one thousands years to the day to pure symbolism and everything in between. Some get so bent out of shape over others not holding to their particular view on this they break fellowship with fellow believers and even churches.
Reminds me of the story of the guy who came up on a fellow about to jump off a bridge. The first guy pleaded, "Don't do it!" But the other guy said, "Nobody loves me."
The first guy said, "God loves you. Do you believe in God?"
The other guy said, "Yes." So the first guy said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew?"
The other guy said, "A Christian." First guy said, "Me, too! "Protestant or Catholic?"
“Protestant,” the other guy said. First guy said "Me, too! What denomination?"
"Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?"
"Me, too! Conservative Southern Baptist or Liberal Southern Baptist?"
Other guy said, ”Conservative Southern Baptist." First guy said, "Me, too!
“Conservative Southern Baptist Traditional, or Conservative Southern Baptist Reformed?" The other guy said, "Conservative Southern Baptist Traditional." First guy said, "Me, too!"
“Conservative Southern Baptist Traditional BFM 1963, or Conservative Southern Baptist Traditional BFM 2000?" The other guy said, "Conservative Southern Baptist Traditional BFM 2000."
And the first guy said, "Die, heretic!" And pushed him over.
I’ve told you already (probably more times than you care to hear) I don’t believe God ever intended us to force intricate and detailed timelines out of Revelation, or even identify contemporary individuals with it. And I know he never intended for us to use it as a test of fellowship. Look at…
Revelation 1:3 (ESV) — 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
God gave us this book to bless us, and the blessing doesn’t come from haggling over things like the millennium. If it’s literal one day we’ll know because we’ll be ruling with Christ in the middle of it. The bigger-picture blessing God wants to give us is received only when we step back and look at what we do know for sure. And one thing we know, the time is nearer now than it was then.
We also know for sure Jesus is coming back to wage war and judge. He wins and sets up his throne forever. Those who died in him (v. 4) come to life. That can only refer to the resurrection. Look at how this connects with a text we spent a lot of time unpacking when we talked about how Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection…
1 Corinthians 15:20–26 (ESV) — 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
So the dead in Christ come to life and get their resurrection bodies just like his when he returns but as we continue with verse five of chapter twenty…
5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
Wait. Now there are two resurrections? What’s that all about? There’s more than one interpretation here, but let me tell you what I think fits best, what makes the most sense.
The dead in Christ are resurrection number one.
The dead without Christ are resurrection number two.
And there’s an amount of time between the two.
And here we have a little-known truth about God’s End Game: everyone, saved or unsaved, is resurrected in the end. Those who die in Christ are resurrected to live forever as part of God’s kingdom in the new heavens and earth. That’s why those who share in the first resurrection are blessed and holy. The second death (hell) doesn’t worry them. Those who die apart from Christ are resurrected in the second round to live forever separated from God.
Which brings us back to where we are in the arc of God’s End Game, the Final Judgement…
Revelation 20:7–15 (ESV) — 7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Satan is the first to be judged. One day he will pay for all eternity for what he’s done, for all the evil, pain, and suffering he’s caused the world and everyone in it.
Now, let me touch on something here that most Christians get wrong without realizing it. What is hell — the lake of fire — to Satan? It’s not his home; it’s not a kingdom he rules over. It’s his judgment, his eternal prison. But how often have we heard things like the devil is torturing lost souls in hell or he rules in hell and things like that? He is tormented in hell, not the other way around.
And let me ask you this: Has this happened yet? No. So, the devil isn’t in hell yet, is he? Where is he? On the earth for now. Remember that for later.
The final judgment continues, focusing now on those who died apart from Christ…
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
The great white throne is also called the judgment seat of Christ. At the judgment seat there will be books. These books are both terrifying and comforting, depending on which you find yourself mentioned in.
Conclusion: How these books play into God’s End Game are so cosmically important, we’ll cover them in detail next time, but for now I want you to circle back around to where we began. How can this be? How can God force those who didn’t come to him through Jesus into something as horrible and final as the lake of fire.
I’m with you. But listen to how CS Lewis reframes this…
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. [For] Those who knock it is opened.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
All those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
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